by Father Mark Goldasich
Per volant sedem vestra Braccae.
If I had a family crest, I’d put these words on it. I won’t vouch for the accuracy of the Latin, but it means: “Fly by the seat of your pants.”
That certainly describes how I live my life — even more so in this time of COVID-19.
In other words, planning isn’t my strong suit. (Take a guess as to when I’m writing this column!) Rather, it’s usually the event that drives my response. I don’t think I’ve ever been busier as a priest. The months of lockdown meant that all the baptisms, first Communions, welcoming RCIA participants into the church, appointments, weddings and meetings — like airplanes — were in a holding pattern, circling the field.
When restrictions began to ease, they all wanted to land . . . at the same time!
Unfortunately, that meant switching from one thing to another without adequate preparation on my part. And I’m still in that pattern.
It reminds me of this story:
A student, rather lazily inclined, noticed that a classmate always recited her Spanish lessons well. One day, he asked her, “How do you recite your lessons so perfectly?”
“Before I study,” she told the boy, “I always pray that I can remember my lessons and repeat them well.”
The boy thought to himself, “So, that’s her secret. Well, I’ll just pray, too!”
That night, he prayed up a storm, reciting every prayer he could remember. However, the next day he couldn’t repeat even one phrase of the lesson. Baffled, he looked for his friend and confronted her.
“Hey, I prayed,” he told her, “but I couldn’t repeat a single phrase from yesterday’s homework!”
“Did you take time to learn the lesson?” she asked.
“Of course not,” said the boy. “I didn’t study at all. I had no reason to. You told me to pray that I might remember the lesson.”
“Well, there’s your problem,” replied the girl. “I told you I prayed before, not instead of, studying!” (Found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “Fresh Packet of Sower’s Seeds: Third Planting.)
Too many times, I’m that little boy. Prayer is wonderful, but it should be accompanied by action. For centuries, the Benedictines have understood this with their motto: “Ora et labora,” which means “Pray AND work.”
The season of Advent, the beginning of a new church year, is an ideal time to jettison an old and ineffective pattern of life and replace it with something better.
Usually, I’ve approached Advent by praying that the Holy Spirit would bless these days.
And that was it; I took it no further. Perhaps the Spirit was calling me to sketch out a plan on how exactly I’d keep Advent holy, instead of doing my usual fly through it by the seat of my pants?
How about you? What would make your Advent holy and meaningful? Since Advent doesn’t begin until Nov. 29, we have time to pray and reflect on that question. But don’t leave it there. After prayer, Google “celebrating Advent,” to come up with a slew of practical ways — from Advent wreaths and garlands to Jesse Trees to Advent calendars — to make this season come alive. Don’t be swept along by the seat of your pants and miss opportunities to prepare for a deeper coming of Christ this Christmas.
Because I’m hoping to change my ways this time around, I’ve got a new motto all ready to go on my crest: “Tardus et stabilis vincit genus” (“Slow and steady wins the race!”).